ACLU Report Condemns Public Video Surveillance


American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released a report that suggests many California cities are moving to adopt video surveillance despite a dearth of public debate and without an evaluation of its effectiveness in fighting crime.

Titled “Under the Watchful Eye,” the 25-page report evaluates threats video surveillance poses to privacy and free speech, and examines law enforcement justifications for video surveillance programs.

ACLU affiliates of Northern California, Southern California and San Diego/Imperial Counties, conducted a public records survey of 131 jurisdictions throughout the state. According to the survey, 37 cities in California have some type of video surveillance program, while 18 have significant video surveillance in public streets and plazas. Only 11 police departments have policies that regulate the use of the city’s CCTV cameras, according to the report.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended large grants for municipal security cameras, the ACLU report claims “no jurisdiction in California has conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the surveillance cameras’ effectiveness.”

ACLU’s biggest concern, however, is the potential for invasion of privacy.

“The threat of widespread government surveillance only multiplies when cameras are combined with other new technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, face and eye scans, and automated identification software,” says report co-author Nicole Ozer. “In this light, video surveillance cameras provide a critical pillar for an emerging government surveillance infrastructure.”

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